Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Zunum Aero reveals details of its 12-seat hybrid-electric passenger aircraft that it hopes to be operational by 2022

Fri 13 Oct 2017 – US-based Zunum Aero has revealed more details of its hybrid-electric 12-seat regional aircraft that it claims will be operational by 2022. In April, Zunum announced it had received backing from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures (see article). The aircraft is being designed to have a maximum cruise speed of 340 miles an hour and a take-off distance of 2,200 feet (670m), and the company believes it can open up fast and affordable travel for thousands of communities across the United States. It is expected to have up to 80 per cent lower emissions compared to comparable jet aircraft, and over time Zunum’s quest is to eliminate emissions with an all-electric version. UK low-cost carrier easyJet recently unveiled its support for an electric regional aircraft in development by US start-up, Wright Electric (see article).

The US has many thousands of small airports yet Zunum says around 96% of air traffic travels through 1% of its airports, leaving a large untapped market on short routes where it is unprofitable for private jets and commercial airlines to operate. The company believes that with advances in battery technology, lightweight electric motors and carbon composite airframes, direct costs could work out at eight US cents per seat-mile, or $250 per hour – about one-fifth that of a small jet or turboprop plane. Many smaller airports also have environmental constraints that Zunum says its aircraft can overcome.

The aircraft would be powered by two electric motors and a supplemental jet-fuel engine to ensure the plane has a range of up to 700 miles – about two hours of flight – and so well beyond current battery technology capability. The motor being designed by Zunum will drive a fan similar to the bypass fan on a conventional jet engine but without combustion. These quiet electric propulsors with their variable pitch fans would enable a 40% reduction in runway needs and a 75% drop in community noise. Wing-integrated batteries would enable tailoring of onboard battery capacity and quick-swap or recharge at airports.

The company says it is discussing with aircraft manufacturers about building the airframe. It is planning to open a second development in the Chicago area and start ground tests ahead of first flights planned for 2019.

With projected advances in battery technology Zunum is setting its sights on a larger 50-seater plane with a range of 1,000 miles by the end of the next decade.

“Regional travel is ripe for reinvention,” says JetBlue Technology Ventures, which backs travel and technology early start-ups. “Options for journeys up to a thousand miles are far from ideal, limited to slow travel on the ground and air service consolidating to large hubs. As a result, door-to-door times have not improved for decades, and the only alternative, high-speed rail, is limited by heavy capital needs for a few dense corridors. Zunum Aero aims to change that.”


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Government support for LanzaTech’s low-carbon jet fuel could enable three UK plants by 2025, says Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 takes on LanzaTech fuel blend at Orlando

(photo: Doug Peters/PA Wire)

Tue 9 Oct 2018 – Virgin Atlantic has urged the UK government to offer LanzaTech access to the same incentives given to earlier generations of biofuels that would provide critical investor support to enable the building of three commercial low-carbon jet fuel production plants in the UK.

JetBlue’s carbon emissions show 8 per cent growth last year but improvement in fuel efficiency performance

Fri 5 May 2017 – Carbon emissions from operations by US carrier JetBlue amounted to just under 7.5 million tonnes in 2016, an increasing of 8.4 per cent compared to the previous year as a result of higher passenger volume that saw revenue passenger miles rise by 9.3 per cent. Also contributing to the emissions increase, says JetBlue in its latest annual sustainability report, was a change in physical operating conditions as a result of congested airspace in the Northeast region of the United States causing increased fuel burn from occasional longer taxi times at airports. While emissions increased overall, however, the airline says its greenhouse gas intensity decreased by 0.62 per cent on the previous year and 4.9 per cent since its 2008 baseline reporting year. To meet CO2 reduction targets, JetBlue has set goals to save 500,000 gallons of fuel burn per year through enhanced technology, integrating biofuel into all flight operations and transitioning its airport ground equipment to all-electric where feasible. (Updated 15 May)

Flights in all world regions at greater risk of severe turbulence incidents as a result of climate change

Tue 10 Oct 2017 – In May, 27 passengers on board an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok were injured when the Boeing 777 encountered clear-air turbulence. Because the plane was unable to detect the turbulence ahead, passengers had not been warned to fasten their seat belts. There is evidence that clear-air turbulence (CAT) has already risen by 40-90% over Europe and North America since 1958 and studies by researchers from the universities of Reading and East Anglia in the UK have shown that as a consequence of climate change, the frequency of turbulence on flights between Europe and North America could double by 2050 and the intensity increase by 10-40%. The same researchers have since extended their previous work by analysing eight geographic regions, two flight levels, five turbulence strength categories and four seasons, and found large increases in CAT.

“While turbulence does not usually pose a major danger to flights, it is responsible for hundreds of passenger injuries every year,” said Luke Storer, a researcher at the University of Reading and co-author of the new study. “It is also by far the most common cause of serious injuries to flight attendants. Turbulence is thought to cost US air carriers up to $200 million annually.”

Previous research focused on turbulence over the North Atlantic region – one of the busiest air routes in the world – and suggested climate change will increase high-altitude wind instabilities in the jet stream in winter, generating stronger and more frequent pockets of CAT. Using supercomputer simulations of the future atmosphere, the new study analysed changes to CAT over the entire globe by the second half of the century.

The researchers found strong increases in CAT in all regions, in particular the mid-latitudes in both hemispheres where the busiest flights are in operation, and some regions may experience several hundred per cent more turbulence. They also found that of the five turbulence strength categories, the strongest turbulence will increase the most.

Flights to the most popular international destinations are projected to experience the largest increases, with severe turbulence at a typical cruising altitude of 39,000 feet becoming up to two or three times as common throughout the year over the North Atlantic (180% more common), Europe (160% more common), North America (110% more common), the North Pacific (90% more common) and Asia (60% more common).

The study also makes the first ever turbulence projections for the Southern Hemisphere, finding the amount of airspace containing severe turbulence is calculated to increase over South America by 60% and over Australia and Africa by 50%.

“Air turbulence is increasing across the globe, in all seasons, and at multiple cruising altitudes. This problem is only going to worsen as the climate continues to change,” said Paul Williams, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading and lead author of the study.

He said the results highlighted an increasing need to improve operational CAT forecasts and to use them effectively in flight planning. “Despite containing useful information and demonstrably improving the safety and comfort of air travel, these forecasts continue to include a substantial fraction of false positives and missed events,” he added.

The study points out that future aeronautical advances, such as remote sensing of CAT using onboard light detection and ranging (lidar) technology, might be able to mitigate the operational effects of the worsening atmospheric turbulence. For example, Boeing is collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a system that will detect CAT more than 60 seconds, or about 17.5km, ahead of the aircraft (see Wired article). Even if it does not give pilots enough time to divert round the threat, it would alert crew and minimise the risk of injuries.

“Our findings may have implications for aviation operations in the coming decades,” say the researchers. “Many of the aircraft that will be flying in the second half of the present century are currently in the design phase. It would therefore seem sensible for the aircraft manufacturers to prepare for a more turbulent atmosphere, even at this early stage.”

The study, ‘Global response of clear-air turbulence to climate change’, is published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.


Copyright © 2017 GreenAir Communications

Industry and countries prepare for introduction of CORSIA but “much work to be done”

ICAO Council President Dr Olumuyiwa Aliu delivers keynote at ATAG’s GSAS

Tue 9 Oct 2018 – With just three months to go before all airlines with international flights must start monitoring their carbon emissions, ICAO’s CORSIA carbon offsetting scheme was centre stage at this year’s Global Sustainable Aviation Summit (GSAS) in Geneva organised by the industry’s Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).